Amazon’s Prime Day certainly evoked a flurry of mixed emotions. Many people were disappointed, but many were also able to score a deal. Personally, I scored Amazon’s Fire TV Stick for $25. Amazon reportedly sold hundreds of thousands of Fire TV Sticks within a 1-hour period. So if you want to get the most out of your Fire TV Stick, make sure and pay attention.
First let’s talk about why the Fire TV Stick makes such a great platform for a media center.
Even at its $39 full retail price, the Fire TV Stick is a real steal. It’s closest competitors are priced higher and have lower specs. Yes the Chromecast is technically $5 cheaper than the Fire TV Stick, but it’s dead in the water without another device to initiate the media streaming and it has nowhere near the capabilities of the Fire TV Stick.
The Fire TV Stick runs Amazon’s Android off-shoot called Fire OS. Because Android is at the core of Fire OS, the Fire TV Stick can play games and use other apps found on Amazon’s App Store. You can also side-load apps from other sources onto the device, but we’ll talk about that a little later.
Fire TV Stick Specs
The specs on the Amazon Fire TV Stick are impressive for its $39 price.
- Processor: Broadcom Capri 28155, dual-core 2xARM A9 up to 1 Ghz
- GPU: VideoCore4
- Storage: 8 GB internal
- Memory: 1 GB
- Wi-Fi Connectivity: Dual-band, dual-antenna Wi-Fi (MIMO); supports 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi networks.
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth 3.0 with support for the following profiles: HID, SPP
- 1080p video streaming
- 7.1 Dolby Digital surround sound
How to set it up
The first thing you have to do is connect it your wireless network. This is a fairly easy thing to do, and the Fire TV Stick will walk you through the process.
If you purchased your Fire TV stick from Amazon, then it will already come attached to your Amazon account. If you purchased it elsewhere you will either need to sign into your Amazon account or you will need to create one. Once you’ve logged in then you’re just about done. Just download your favorite apps and enjoy.
Legal media options
There are several options here. The Fire TV Stick supports just about every streaming platform out there. Here is a sizable, but not comprehensive by any means, list of popular apps.
- Hulu Plus
- Amazon Instant Video
- Sling TV
- HBO GO
- Fox Sports GO
- PBS Kids
- Bloomberg TV
- Showtime Anytime
If you wish to play your own media, there are a few options for you. You should be aware that the Fire TV Stick does not support USB storage, so any media that you wish to play will need to first be downloaded to a shared location on your network or downloaded locally to the Fire TV Stick itself.
The first option is Plex. In order to use Plex, you first need to download the Plex media server found here. You’ll need to run through the setup prompts and select the folder where your media is located. Once you have done this, Plex will scan your media and download cover art and media information. While this is happening you’ll want to make sure and download the Plex app from the App Store. You’ll then be able to browse and play the media you have on your computer.
The second option that I’ll cover is VLC. VLC allows for local and network playback of media. However, as the local storage on the Fire TV Stick is limited to 8GB, you’ll want to stick to a networked storage solution. The upside of VLC is that it does not require a secondary media server to play media. The downside is that it does not give you the cover art and media center options of Plex.
The third and final option I’ll cover is Kodi, formally known as XBMC. Kodi is my preferred option as it does not require a media server to be running on a separate PC, but it will still scan your media and download the associated art and media information. Kodi also allows for 3rd party add-ons and skins that can customize and add functionality to Kodi.
Kodi isn’t an officially supported app on the Fire TV Stick. so you’ll need to sideload it onto your device. This can be a fairly complicated process, as one method requires you to use ADB command line. I won’t cover this as there are other much easier options.
The option I’ll be covering is the Fire Installer app found on Google Play. Before you fire up the app, you’ll need to download Kodi from Google Play and install it on your phone or tablet because Fire Installer will only install apps to your Fire TV Stick that are already installed on your phone or tablet.
Once you have installed Kodi on your phone or tablet go ahead and fire up the Fire Installer app. You’ll first be greeted by a set of setup instructions. The short version is that you have to enable ADB debugging in the Fire TV Stick’s settings and enter the Fire TV Stick’s IP address into the Fire Installer app. From there it’s as easy as selecting Kodi from the list of installed apps and pushing it over to your Fire TV. Keep in mind that this process will take a few minutes as Kodi can be a fairly large app. You can also use this method to install other apps not found on Amazon’s App Store.
It’s important to note that side-loaded apps will not show up in the recent apps list. In order to launch the apps, you’ll need to go to Applications found in Settings, select Manage Applications, and then select your app and launch it from there.
Other media options
Warning: The following information is for educational purposes only. Neither the author nor AndroidGuys.com endorses this or any other method that will allow for the illegal consumption of copyrighted material. We do encourage you to use any of the legal options found in this same article and to support the copyright holders by legally purchasing the media.
There are a plethora of 3rd party plugins for Kodi. Many of which allow for the streaming of copyrighted media for free. I won’t be endorsing any one particular plugin, but I will be talking about the Fusion Installer from the guys at TVAddons.ag. The Fusion Installer will give you access to install individual plugins one at a time, or the Hub Wizard which will preconfigure Kodi with the most popular add-ons. The Hub Wizard is the second easiest method.
Which is the easiest method? The crew at TVAddons have created a version of Kodi, which comes with the most popular add-ons preinstalled and preconfigured. If you want to try this method, then it’s as easy as downloading the TVMC app from their website and sideloading it onto your device.
If you’ve already installed Kodi then you’ll want to use the aforementioned method. Here are the instructions from their website.
- Step 1: Navigate to the “File manager” tab under the “SYSTEM” menu.
- Step 2: Click on the “Add source” option.
- Step 3: Select the top text input box marked “<None>” under the “Enter the paths of browse for the media locations” field.
- Step 4: Using the on-screen keyboard, type in “http://fusion.tvaddons.ag” without quotations, and then press the “Done” button. In case you’re having trouble, press the “Symbols” button to insert the colon and forward slashes.
- Step 5: Select the bottom text input box under the “Enter a name for the media Source” field.
- Step 6: Using the on-screen keyboard, type in “fusion” without quotations, and then press the “Done” button.
- Step 7: Press the “OK” button at the bottom of the window.
- Step 8: You’ll now notice that “fusion” is listed within the “File manager” window.
- Step 9: Return to the main menu, then Navigate to the “Settings” tab under the “SYSTEM” menu.
- Step 10: Select the “Add-ons” option from the left side menu bar.
- Step 11: Press the “Ok” button when prompted with the “First run help…” dialog.
- Step 10: Select the “Install from zip file” option.
- Step 11: Select the “fusion” folder from the listing.
- Step 12: You’ll now be able to open whichever folder from which you wish to install add-ons for Kodi.
- Recommended Method: You’ll find easy configuration tools such as the Config Wizard, Addon Installer, and Fresh Start program add-ons within the “start-here” folder.
- Alternative Method: If you’d like to install your desired add-ons for Kodi the “old school” method by manually installing your desired repositories and enabling each add-on one by one, you’ll find all the best Kodi repositories within the “xbmc-repos” folder.
- Congratulations! You’ve now configured the Fusion Installer for Kodi. You’ll want take a look at our Config Wizard and Addon Installer guides at this point.
What do you think? Are you going to give the Fire TV Stick a try? Are you already using it? Let us know in the comments below.